Working With Editors

If you’ve ever read a book that was poorly formatted or littered with errors, then you understand the important role editors play in bringing quality books to readers. If you’re a new writer who’s never been edited, or an old pro who’s been burned, you might be wary about letting an editor near your manuscript.

But if you’re matched with the right editor, the editing process should actually be a relief, if not a joy. Finding the right editor is key, and it’s just as important to cultivate a good working relationship.

Find the Right Editor

First, be aware of the different kinds of editing. If you aren’t sure what editors do, or are confused by a lot of editing terms, have a look at the definitions page on the Editors Canada website. There are four stages of editing that a manuscript goes through when thoroughly edited. At the very least, you will need a structural edit and a copy edit.

Second, make sure you ask the right questions to find an editor familiar with your genre and who meshes well with your personality and is sensitive to your style preferences. Many editors specialize, so find one with a background in your subject. If anything in your initial contact with an editor makes you uncomfortable, find a different editor, because you need to trust your editor for the process to run smoothly. Don’t forget to discuss style, because if, for example, you prefer the serial comma and your editor has a sparser punctuation style, it can easily lead to conflict.

Finally, be aware of how a professional editor should conduct their business and what you should expect. Knowing what to expect can help you avoid amateurs and scammers. Anyone can call themselves an editor, but professionals will have training, regularly update their skills, belong to professional associations, and network with industry professionals. There are plenty of professional editors’ associations, like CIEP, Editors Canada, EFA, ACES, and their websites will help you search for pros.

Cultivate a Good Relationship

Once you know what kind of editing you need and have found an editor you trust and who has the right qualifications, you still need to make sure you and the editor understand your roles. Be sure to have a contract that lays out expectations, payment and deadlines.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the editing process, no matter how foolish you think they are. You will feel more comfortable knowing when you will receive feedback, how changes will be reviewed, what kinds of changes to expect and what the schedule is.

Remember that while good editors may seem super-human, they’re not miracle workers. Mistakes happen, but remain professional and courteous. Stand up for your story when you disagree with your editor, but be willing to compromise.

As an editor as well as an author, I’ve been on both sides of the desk and have had fantastic edits and horrific edits in both roles. I’ve found that it’s important to trust your instincts, be prepared, and remember that no edit is set in stone. A good edit by a good editor is rewarding and empowering, so it’s worth the extra research and work to find and maintain a good match.

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